Posted in Real Life

The one about friendship – weekly update #4

‘Tis the season to be jolly and so writing has taken a back seat what with decorating the house ready for the festivities, catching up with friends and family and gift shopping for the most wonderful time of the year. We have also impulsively updated our smallest bedroom this last week and made it into a study. So time ran away from me but now, better late than never, here’s my latest blog offering.

Friendship. Simple yes? On the face of it, it should be easy. You like someone, they like you and bingo, you’re friends. Oftentimes it’s more complicated though.

Here in the UK, at about age three or four we are thrust out into the big wide world of play school or nursery and expected, as part of our development to ‘make friends’ and once we have, we continue to be cross-examined with monotonous regularity by parents and other well meaning family members as to whether this friend or that one has been allocated ‘best friend’ status.

From a particularly young age we are given to understand that having friends and being sociable is absolutely essential to our growth as people. Right from the word go, as well as learning valuable new proficiencies in empathy and understanding, kindness, trust, giving, sharing and loyalty we’re also heaping on the pressure to prove that not only can we demonstrate all those qualities ourselves but that we recognise them in others. The trouble is that when we are children, nobody fully explains what being a friend really means (other than being nice and sharing) so it’s hardly any wonder that we don’t always get it right and that we receive and send mixed messages from time to time in friendship as we grow.

So what is a friend? The Collins dictionary defines it as ‘someone you know well and like but who isn’t related to you.’ And it’s that simple in theory although more complicated of late where adding ‘friends’ on social media allows you to assign friendship status to someone you barely know. Sometimes it’s a great move and a terrific choice. Other times, not so much. And as if that isn’t tricky enough to navigate, along came the term BFF. Not only is it essential to have a best friend, now it has to be ‘forever’ eeeek!

And if you google ‘friendship’, there are hundreds and hundreds of definitions, all slightly different depending on the author and the expectations each person puts on what they individually value in friendship.

Friendship is complex. It’s this one all encompassing word that has a myriad of meaning and implication attached to it. From toddlerhood onwards there’s an expectation you should have a best friend. The one. The person on whom absolutely all your expectation hangs and vice versa. The one who comes to your rescue, that you can rely on, confide in and who fights your corner. Wowzers! That’s a massive responsibility. And if you have someone you consider to be your absolute best friend, you want to be pretty sure that the feeling is reciprocated. Holding someone in much higher regard than they hold you can be heart breaking if when tested the other way, the intensity of feeling is not returned.

I learned a long time ago that friendship is not a one size fits all thing. I’m fortunate. I have shopping friends, get together for a chat and lunch friends, watching sports together friends, and one or two especially close friends with whom I will confide my innermost drunken thoughts. I’m also lucky enough to have family who I absolutely choose as friends.

I love the delight of having uncomplicated relationships with people that I see a handful of times a year where the only expectation we have of each other is that we will chatter non stop, stuff our faces, glug back the wine, laugh like hyenas and have a truly lovely time.

Quite rare and precious are close friends and one of mine in particular will totally know who she is when she reads this. I’ve known her for twenty something years and she is the kind of friend we all aspire to be.

I didn’t know her back then but knowing the person she is now I imagine her to be that girl that everyone fought to be best friends with at primary school. The fiercely loyal supportive one who’d give the boys hell, pull faces at you in class, tell you when you were being a div and hold your hand if you were scared.

Mind you, I’m glad I didn’t know her when she was a kid, the competition to be her bestie would have been immense! These days I’m happy to share her with a hundred other people who most likely regard her exactly as I do. She gets all the facets of friendship right and she’s funny (yes doll you ARE) and endlessly optimistic and I’m telling you now, that if the four horsemen of the apocalypse showed up ready to dish out pestilence, war, famine and death … and she’d had a couple of espresso martinis …. she’d 100% whoop their asses and chase them out of town. Mate, it’s true, you’re my favourite. You’re also a spade 😉

Best friend status is however reserved for my husband and that is utterly right for me. Where other girls need a female friend who is their greatest, I never have. Me and him confide in each other and have each other’s back in a way I absolutely would not expect from anyone else. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. We have absolute trust in one another, we are committed and loyal to a fault and we laugh so much we cry. We accept each other’s quirks with a snigger or a wry, amused smile. I love him unreservedly and unconditionally. So yes, my best friend is my husband, absolutely no two ways about it. I might have had to wait forty years until I met him but boy was it worth the wait.

So finally back to the point in question. What is a friend and what is friendship? It’s everything and it’s everywhere and it touches so much of our journey through life. So whether we are casual friends or close friends, old friends or new friends, Facebook or Twitter friends and whether we have a tonne of things in common or just a few, thank you. Each and every one of you makes life more interesting and in the words of the fabulous Charlie Mackesy (main photo) this thing called friendship truly is ‘a priceless and wonderful thing’.

Posted in Real Life

The Life Balance Chair – weekly update #2

This week I actually made it into the gym EVERY DAY and so that is my little victory for this blog posting. We are lucky enough to have a gym in our garage with a treadmill, punch bag, multi gym and exercise bike. You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world to pop on some gym kit and wander in. Not so. You really have to want to go in and part of that is remembering the great feeling of getting a little gym time in.

Part of my success with the gym this week was having a training partner. My younger son Connor had a week off work and is a huge gym enthusiast. Making an agreement with him and spending some quality time together in the gym really helped. So much so I thought I’d use this week’s blog to share his thoughts on maintaining a healthy life.

So he calls it the ‘Life Balance Chair’. Imagine a chair with four legs. The legs are made to fit the chair perfectly. They are equally strong and together they enable stability, comfort and balance to the structure of the chair. That is until one or more of the legs become unstable or wobbly.

Consider that in life we need four core things (the four legs of our personal chair) that enable stability for our bodies and minds.

  1. Physical Strength. This is about maintaining an active lifestyle to promote good physical health. It doesn’t mean being the strongest person or giving yourself a difficult goal it means doing some exercise, being mobile and keeping flexible and supple in a way that helps you to live from day to day in a physically healthy way. For me that means doing some stretches in the morning, spending time in the gym regularly (not just staring at the equipment) and walking the dog.
  2. Biological Strength. This is the one I probably struggle with the most. This one is about eating well enough. This is not about dieting or going crazy but more about eating a balanced diet and looking after what’s on the inside. Perhaps taking a multi vitamin or some vitamin C, getting a flu shot in winter, eating good (but not excessively naughty) food, eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on alcohol, sugar and carbs.
  3. Psychological Strength. This one is so important as it allows you to not feel guilty about spending time on your well-being. It’s about good mental health and self care. So in short, doing things for you. Just you. It might be getting your nails done, taking up a new hobby or spending time meditating or watching your favourite film. It might be admitting when you’re struggling and allowing yourself to talk it through or get help. My plan is to use the Calm app to promote a better sleep pattern and to calm anxiety through meditation and deep breathing. I’m also thoroughly enjoying my new card-making hobby, which provides an outlet for my creative side.
  4. Presentable Strength. I love this one, perhaps because it comes more naturally for me, and probably most of you than some of the others. This is about using your strengths to help or better others. It’s about sharing the things you’re good at, being a listening ear or a good friend, spending time with people and being encouraging. It’s surprising how good this makes you feel and has a big impact on your Psychological Strength.

So those are the four legs of the ‘Life Balance Chair’ and when Connor and I were talking about it I suddenly realised how important it is to have each of these areas of my life in balance. If I neglect a strength (or chair leg) then the chair becomes unstable and wobbly. If all four legs are neglected then the chair is no longer fit for purpose. It no longer provides stability comfort and balance. In effect I’m running on empty.

So here I am taking care of my Presentable Strength by sharing a special moment between my son and me. Which happened while I was taking care of my Physical Strength during a gym session. I’ve just finished making some Christmas cards, thereby adding to my Psychological Strength by taking time to do something I really enjoy and in just a moment I’ll be going out for a nice meal this evening with my husband when I will of course be thinking about my Biological Strength and will only have one glass of wine (because I deserve it) ….  instead of a bottle!

I really hope that this blog post resonates with you the way it’s helping me. Have the most splendid of weekends and a healthy happy week ahead.

Big love, Jules x

Posted in Real Life

Getting Started! Weekly update #1

Good Morning, happy Saturday!

A day later than planned but here’s my first weekly update. I thought I’d use this opportunity to explain briefly what I’m trying to achieve.

Each week I will post an update on the happenings of the week, mostly focussing on little victories, those little things that I’ve achieved which make a day feel like it’s been worthwhile. It might be success in gym challenges (any time I spend in the gym being active is a gigantic victory tbh!), it might be cooking delicious healthy meals, celebrating doing something new or just having a good day. So this blog is mostly for me because how can I expect anyone else to be even vaguely interested in my personal weekly small achievements? However if one person reads it and finds one post interesting or uplifting that that’s another little victory for me. Committing to writing a weekly blog also means I am more likely to achieve the things I want to during the week ….. because who wants to be left with tumbleweed for a picture and nothing to say?!

So whilst I’m lucky enough never to have experienced periods of deep depression, like most people, I’ve had challenging times in my life. I’ve always managed somehow to battle through. Lately and I’m going to be completely honest here, I’ve felt a bit redundant at home.  I’m now over 50 (where the hell did all the years go?), my children are grown ups and they need me less. And because we live in an era of ridiculous house prices and rental costs my two have not fled the nest. I do endeavour to give them the space and privacy they need to be as fully independent as they can be whilst still living in the family home. However, that leaves me with less to do, less to worry about (which is lovely but unnerving) and with lots of time on my hands.

So with that in mind the first thing I’m celebrating in this post is spending less time during the day watching an endless stream of quiz and home improvement shows (although Phil and Holly will be forever on in the background with This Morning) and more time starting a new hobby. I’ve decided on card making because it satisfies the creative in me. How long it will last and whether I will be any good at it is anyone’s guess. However, I’ve absolutely loved spending time this week mooching around Hobbycraft and picking up pretty things to decorate cards with.

I’m a complete and utter beginner and am already enjoying doing lots of research on techniques and materials to use. I’ve even started making (see main photo). The aim is that this year all our friends and family will receive ‘lovely’ home made cards and if they aren’t all that lovely or perfectly finished at least they have been made with love!

So that’s post #1 and my first small victory – starting a new hobby. It’s a good start right?

Thanks for reading. I’m excited about the future, about sharing my little victories with you and kick starting a new period of my life in the most positive way I can.

Big love

Jules 🙂 x